The Employee Benefits Blog

Encouraging Employee Wellness: Lessons from Pfizer

Posted by Colin Bradley on Tue, Sep, 24, 2013 @ 14:09 PM

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Pfizer Employee Wellness LessonsAs more employers set out to encourage their employees to adopt healthy behaviors, they’re faced with the challenge of how to engage those employees to do just that, Rick Bruno, senior director of health and wellness at Pfizer, told attendees Monday at the EBN Benefits Forum and Expo in New Orleans.

At Pfizer, “we want to give our employees and their families the resources they need to take care of their health,” said Bruno. The “Healthy Pfizer Vision” is what the company calls its set of goals to:

  • Lower employees’ health risks.
  • Decrease absenteeism.
  • Moderate health care costs.

To achieve this set of goals, “we constantly strive to add new and innovative programs to engage people,” said Bruno. Then, “everything we do goes into a data warehouse” which helps to evaluate programs and change them to make them better.

The popularity of social media and online games in employees’ personal lives has made these new tools for boosting employee engagement with wellness programs in the workplace, said Bruno. Companies are starting to use social networking and gamification -- or the use of game-like features, such as contests, lotteries, points, quizzes and leaderboards, in non-game situations to motivate a change in behavior.

The Healthy Pfizer program

Wanting to see how these tactics would work with its employees, in the fall of 2011 Pfizer added a program called Keas to its Healthy Pfizer program. Keas has a full suite of engagement features, including:

  • Corporate challenges. These are usually eight weeks long and happen three or four times a year.
  • Individual quests and weekly goals. Employees choose their own goals to work towards.
  • The ability to form teams. Grouping people into teams enforces social support
  • User news feeds. This is the social media aspect where employees can share their progress through posts.
  • 230+ quizzes. These are an engaging way to communicate information to employees.
  • 60+ breaks. These brief, healthy breaks are designed to help people manage stress.

Results of the Pfizer wellness program

The jury is still out on whether this works or doesn’t work, says Bruno, but Pfizer has gathered enough data to feel like there’s something to the gamification and social networking that’s helping to get people engaged, and involved and making changes.

They’ve discovered that people who got engaged tended to stay engaged with the program. The next step is to gather and evaluate more data, says Bruno. “I think we’re going to be doing more with social media and gamification, but I don’t know where that’s headed yet.”


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Topics: employee wellness, wellness program data, decreasing absenteeism